• Michelle Fleming

Thoughts about the book "Multiplication is for White People" by Lisa Delpit

As a white woman who will be teaching students who identify as people of color, it is my responsibility to educate myself on how I can be a culturally responsive, caring, and effective presence in the classroom. Reading "Multiplication is for White People" by Lisa Delpit has helped me better understand the ways in which I can be supportive while still challenging my students to perform at their best.

In the book, Delpit recommends using strategies that help students overcome low performance due to stereotype threat including creating a sense of belonging and not putting students in settings that increase stereotype stigma. Ways in which I do this in the classroom include differentiating learning and scaffolding assignments in order to support all varieties of learners with Universal Design for Learning strategies. This helps decrease threat and creates a safe space in which all students are encouraged to share their ideas. We frequently have community circles in which students are able to share their highs and lows from their daily lives in order to help focus on the social/emotional support from teachers and peers.

Delpit explains that the ideal teaching of ‘skills’ should be intentional and explicit. These teaching of skills in my classroom will be: (1) situated within engaging activities, (2) embedded in real writing, reading, and communication, and (3) taught flexibly when needed. By incorporating these techniques in my classroom, I will be able to reach a wider variety of students from various backgrounds and show them how what we are learning in school has direct implications in their day to day lives.

The most important point that stuck with me from this book is that as a teacher, I am a lifeline to a better future for my students. The work that I do with them in the classroom helps them navigate through the rest of their educational experience and their personal lives. By believing in them, supporting learning, and providing a safe space for students to express themselves and build on the knowledge of others, teachers create confident, knowledgable members of society.

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